One of the finest, and simplest, eating experiences in Derbyshire is the full breakfast at the Grindleford Station Café.
Grindleford is the first station westwards on the Hope Valley Line, which carries passenger services between Sheffield and Manchester. This line between Dore and Chinley was a late link in the Midland Railway network, opened in 1894. The station building, like others on the line, is a standard design, built in timber with stone footings and chimneys.
Its interior has been altered, and for well over thirty years it has housed one of the truly great hikers’ pit-stops. Whether you walk, cycle, motor-cycle or drive it’s a rest-and-be-thankful port-in-a-storm. You can of course reach it by train with no more effort than walking the ramp up from the platform to the bridge; if you’re really decadent you can arrive by car. (The station is a mile north of the village of Grindleford, on the B6521 road to Fox House.)
It was founded and driven by Philip Eastwood, a man who affected a truculence which would have been noticeable in the grumpiest eateries of Lower Manhattan. His notices are legendary: “Don’t even think of asking for mushrooms”, “Unaccompanied children will be sold into slavery”, “This is a serving hatch, not a gawping hatch” and “If you want to be a fire guard, join the fire brigade”.
Inevitably, some innocent customers took exception to this, but astute reviewers recognise that nobody builds a successful business by hating customers. Review comments on http://russelldavies.typepad.com/eggbaconchipsandbeans/2004/07/grindleford_sta.html describe the service as “charmingly grumpy”, “curt but helpful”, “so awful it was wonderful”. The place is so special its Wikipedia entry contains irony: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grindleford.
Philip Eastwood Snr died in 2007 at the age of 63, dancing at a party, and his son, also Phillip, then aged nineteen, promptly gave up his business-management degree-course and his plans for an athletic career to take on the family legacy, much to the relief of the rambling community.
The café continues, and Phillip Jnr has added to the notices, but long-standing visitors will sense that the new management has a gentler temperament, and some of the heart has gone out of the truculence. A Sheffield Telegraph writer [‘Station café still on track’, January 13th 2009] even spotted one that ended with the words “Thank you”.
For cholesterol-on-a-plate breakfasts and lunches with chips piled high there is nowhere finer anywhere in the Peak District. Don’t use the loo without making a purchase, and if you want to check if the hair-dryer’s still working, ask for mushrooms.
Update: Phillip and Kulbir Eastwood celebrated the forty-fifth anniversary of the Grindleford Station Café on October 27th 2018: https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/how-much-loved-grindleford-station-cafe-has-survived-for-45-years-1-9410432.
The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2016 The Derbyshire Derwent Valley tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing. To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.